They say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but should you ever judge a book by its title? I must confess that I did. Perusing the new book shelf at my local library I came across this book and was immediately taken in by the title. Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. What does it mean to throw rocks at the Google bus? The cover art perfectly captures the title with an image of a shattered window with a hole that seems to be made by a rock. The subtitle tantalizes you with “how growth became the enemy of prosperity.” You had my attention before, but now you have my attention.
This book was a complete delight throughout filled with concisely written problems and thought provoking solutions.
We optimized our platforms not for people or even value but for growth. Instead of getting more varieties of human expression and interaction, we pushed for market-friendly predictability and automation. Technologies were prized most for their ability to extract value from people in terms of “eyeball hours” and the data that could be derived from them. As a result, we have ended up in an always-on digital landscape, constantly pinged by updates and enduring a state of perpetual emergency interruption – what I call “present shock” – previously known only to 911 operators and air traffic controllers. – Pg. 6
To anyone and everyone that should be a pretty frightening yet insightful paragraph to read. The systems we built are always being optimized, always being scaled so that they can gain more hours of use and more data and it is that use and data which is then used to optimize systems to continually try and gain more data. How many of you in the digital world have been pinged late at night because of some fire that needed to be put out? How many have been interrupted over the weekend during their leisure time with their friends and their families because of some email that just had to be answered? This constant state of shock has thrown work/life balance into chaos. There is always a new system or platform vying for your attention, vying for your use. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Slack, Gmail, Outlook, the list goes on and on.
There is a reason why America is known as the no vacation nation and this quote puts one of the reasons into perspective. We’re all in a state of shock and we don’t even realize it, and that is the most tragic part.
“Somehow, growth has become an end in itself – the engine of the economy – and human beings have come to be understood as impediments to its functioning…when the miraculous efficiencies of machines appeared to offer us a path to infinite growth – at least to the extent that human interference could be minimized.” – Pg. 15
What is the enemy of growth? Scale. What stops growth? Inability to scale. Somewhere along the line after the industrial revolution and the invention of factories and inventions like the cotton gin, people literally became cogs in the machinery.
Overall the book makes different recommendations on how we can change our culture from one that is only focused on growth to one that is focused on sustainability.
I can’t speak highly enough of this book. Extremely well-written and thought provoking.
This article is still a work in progress — I need to reread the book and come back with a better review but I wanted to at least post something.